August 14, 2016

"Another one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets successfully landed on a floating drone ship this evening, after the vehicle launched a Japanese communications satellite into orbit."

the verge: The feat marks the fourth time SpaceX has landed one of its vehicles at sea and the company’s fifth rocket recovery overall this year. By Loren Grush

'Tonight’s landing was particularly challenging for SpaceX, too. The Falcon 9 had to carry its onboard satellite — called JCSAT-16 — into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). It’s a highly elliptical orbit that takes the satellite 20,000 miles out beyond Earth’s surface. Getting to GTO requires a lot of speed and uses up a lot of fuel during take off, more so than getting to lower Earth orbit. That makes things difficult for the rocket landing afterward. Not only is the rocket subjected to "extreme velocities and re-entry heating" during its fall back to Earth, according to SpaceX, but there’s less fuel leftover for the vehicle to reignite its engines and perform the necessary landing maneuvers.

'Despite these challenges, SpaceX has managed to land three rockets bound for GTO — including tonight’s vehicle. In fact, the company now has experienced more success than failure with its rocket recoveries. Of SpaceX’s 11 rocket landing attempts over the past two years, six Falcon 9 vehicles have successfully made it back to Earth in tact (sic).'

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